Interests, not friends

…purview of international relations
Interests, not friends
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There are lessons to be learned from escalating tension in subcontinent. A purview of international relations vis-à-vis the subcontinent makes it clear that for countries around the globe, interests are permanent not friends. The sooner subcontinental leadership across the divide realizes it, the better. This may prompt the leaders to scale back on the escalating ladder and talk to each other, instead of talking at each other. The events that unfolded during recent days provide enough evidence that global powers primarily safeguard their own interests instead of openly taking sides to favour one country or another. To gauge how international relations work, many sample studies could be taken-up, if only to prove the point that interests are permanent not friends.

Mohammad bin Salman (MBS) Saudi crown prince visited Pakistan on the heels of Pulwama incident. MBS in the official banquet told Pak PM—Imran Khan that he could be taken as Pak ambassador in Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) such were the positive vibes. Besides the expression of bonhomie, KSA put in a solid investment of 20 billion dollars. The investment included 10 billion dollars for oil refinery in Gwadar. It could be taken as an initial step in KSA becoming a partner in China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The latest investment is an addition to KSA parking 3 billion dollars to support Pakistan's balance of payment, given the dwindling foreign exchange reserves. Besides, another 3 billion dollars in deferred payments for oil purchases stands promised over next three years. KSA is thus actively involved in baling out Pakistan financially, given the strategic equation. UAE promises a deal almost on identical lines.

KSA/UAE investments in Pakistan may not be taken to mean an unqualified support. Within a day of Pak visit, MBS landed in India. Modi's hug on red carpet was as warm as Imran's hug on Noor Khan air base in Pakistan. Pakistan may be a strategic partner for variety of reasons; India is an economic partner of some value. A growing economic power, it is high on the list of buyers of Saudi oil, hence a partner in trade. India is one of the eight countries, high on Saudi radar. Besides four European powers, it includes India, China, Japan and South Korea. KSA has already committed 44 billion dollars to an oil refinery in India. The project though is in limbo due to problems in land acquisition. KSA is interested in investing as much as 100 billion dollar in India, whatever the level of strategic partnership with Pakistan. UAE hosting OIC conference has invited Indian foreign minister—Sushma Swaraj as guest of honour. She is slated to address the conference.

MBS came to India guarding his diplomatic flanks. Like all nation states, KSA condemned terrorism in all its forms, and committed its readiness to partner India in combating extremism and terrorism. However, it stopped short of implicating or condemning Pakistan. Leave KSA or any other nation state, even Pakistan would sign on the dotted line, were it asked to condemn extremism or terrorism. The efforts of seasoned journalists like Rajdeep Sardesia and Nidhi Razdan in their interviews with Saudi minister of state for foreign affairs failed to elicit a response beyond stated objectives. The minister remained guarded, even when it was suggested that MBS has come to the subcontinent to refurbish his international image after the gory incident of Jamal Khashoggi's murder in Turkish embassy of KSA.

Like KSA, China is a strategic partner of Pakistan. Even with its 62 billion dollar investment in CPEC, it does not take its eye off what India has to offer. Sino-Indian trade is heightening by the day, even while China provides diplomatic cover to Pakistan. It puts a technical hold, as and when UN Security Council resolution 1267 on enlisting terrorists is taken up. It makes Masood Azhar escape the international censor. Russia is reported to have promised India support in UN, the country however stands committed to dollar 14 billion investment in gas pipeline in Pakistan. There are Russian strategists, who take Pakistan to be a zipper, given its geostrategic location. Zipper is used to donate zipping geostrategic interests of regional and global powers. Pakistan is located at the crossroads of south, west and central Asia, a huge advantage.

India in recent years has emerged as a strategic partner of US. Quad of US, Japan, India and Australia in Asia Pacific has become a favourite term with some strategists. However, given the geostrategic location of Pakistan, US cannot but lean on it to provide help in devising an exit strategy from Afghan quagmire. In recent days US President Trump has called Indo-Pak situation dangerous, and made known the US intention to stop it. European powers like France may take a stance of backing India's UN moves to get Masood Azhar enlisted as terrorist; however it does not stop European Parliament from censoring HR violations in Kashmir. It could hardly be to India's liking. On the regional level, in the wake of Uri incident, India has succeeded in putting SAARC summit in Pakistan on hold since 2016. It has however not affected Pakistan's bilateral ties with SAARC states.

Diplomatic Isolation is not selling in global market. Instead, broad based diplomatic engagement geared to conflict resolution is the answer. Indo-Pak subcontinent deserves it. What is deserved needs to be desired in equal measure by India and Pakistan to come out of the morass, subcontinent has sunk in.

Yaar Zinda, Sohbat Baqi [Reunion is subordinate to survival]

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